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The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body

Steven Mithen

4 Reviews

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Prose: non-fiction, Science: general issues

A fascinating and incisive examination of our language instinct from award-winning science writer Steven Mithen.

Along with the concepts of consciousness and intelligence, our capacity for language sits right at the core of what makes us human. But while the evolutionary origins of language have provoked speculation and impassioned debate, music has been neglected if not ignored. Like language it is a universal feature of human culture, one that is a permanent fixture in our daily lives.

In THE SINGING NEANDERTHALS, Steven Mithen redresses the balance, drawing on a huge range of sources, from neurological case studies through child psychology and the communication systems of non-human primates to the latest paleoarchaeological evidence.

The result is a fascinating and provocative work and a succinct riposte to those, like Steven Pinker, who have dismissed music as a functionless and unimportant evolutionary byproduct.

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Praise for The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body

  • A detailed erudite exploration of the psychology and neurobiology of music, and the relationship between music and language ... a genuine tour de force - unquestionably Mithen's best book to date

  • In his extraordinary book, Steven Mithen uses anecdotes and a panoply of forensic evidence from linguistics, paleoanthropology, archaeology, psychology and neuroscience to present a new and controversial theory of the origins of language and music - SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

  • Mithen's rich, dispassionate study of the origins of music, language and mime goes back to music-making among primates as the basis for understanding what role music might play in the human mind - EVENING STANDARD

  • A long overdue book, which approaches human evolution from an intriguing as well as entertaining angle - TLS

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Steven Mithen

Steven Mithen is Professor of Early Prehistory and Head of the School of Human and Environmental Sciences at the University of Reading.

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